Saturday, April 30, 2016

Review: War Hawk

War Hawk War Hawk by James Rollins
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Because the library where I live is completely crazy, they've not ordered War Hawk yet, and so it's impossible to even put it on order. However, they have an ample supply on the "Lucky Day" shelf of new releases, and so I snatched the opportunity to pick up this book, our first adventure with Tucker Wayne and his war dog Kane in...two years now?

Taking inspiration from the life and times of Alan Turing (whom I can only picture as Benedict Cumberbatch now), as well as Tomorrow Never Dies (my second-favorite of the Brosnan Bond movies after GoldenEye), this latest Rollins adventure raises the stakes to levels that reminded me very oddly of another recent read of mine - Jonathan Maberry's Predator One. Reading that book helped prepare me for Rollins' assault by drone and other elements of tomorrow's warfare. Although I typically prefer the more sci-fi-heavy Sigma books and especially the Biblical-Gothic Sanguines Trilogy for its highly unique twist on the Judeo-Christian tradition, War Hawk's more streamlined action delivered extremely well, making this shoot high up into my list of favorite Rollins books. (Only Map of Bones, Bloodline, and The Blood Gospel beat this out.)

I just hope we won't have to wait another two years for Tucker Wayne and Kane to return. Awesomeness Withdrawal for any Rollins series is powerful stuff.

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Review: Zom-B Goddess

Zom-B Goddess Zom-B Goddess by Darren Shan
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

First off - who else has looked at the cover and been reminded of Imperator Furiosa?

Second off - At last this book reveals the true motivations behind the Dowlings, who are now playing quite the Gambit Roulette with each other's viruses, and of course B winds up caught in the middle.

Third off - wow. I did NOT see that ending coming. Even down to the wire, Shan's got tons of surprises up his sleeve, and he deploys them by the megaton.

Last off - I'm really bummed we're done with this 'verse, but knowing Shan, he's got something equally killer lined up to astound and amaze his well-deserved legions of fans.

To the Zom-B series, I now say ave atque vale.

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Review: Predator One

Predator One Predator One by Jonathan Maberry
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Perhaps the most terrifying book Maberry has ever written, or will ever write. I'm saying this almost entirely based on the scenes with Davidovitch, in which we get to see how horribly he's been tortured - not only through pain, not only through knowing his family's lives are being altered, moment by moment, by agents of the Seven Kings - but also because of how he comes to take sadistic pleasure in what's happening to his wife in particular.

Sometimes, Brad Thor goes all-out on the Homeland-esque paranoia in his writing, but Maberry does it better simply because his subject matter is A) more timely, and B) livened up by tons more action than any other writer is capable of doing, I think. (Well, maybe James Rollins...)

It's just a shame that, even a year later, my library still hasn't ordered this one. They've really fallen behind on collecting the Ledger series, and I hope they rectify that error sooner rather than later.

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Friday, April 29, 2016

Review: The Magician King

The Magician King The Magician King by Lev Grossman
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I can't help but feel that this second Magicians book suffered from a serious case of More Of The Same Syndrome, leading to a bit of a sophomore slump. Sure, training is officially over for Quentin et al. They're no longer studying magic at Brakebills, they're now officially full-fledged magicians. But they're still learning all sorts of spellcraft - and learning that the slightest mistake could send them pretty much spiraling into Hell.

Still, though, the magic of Book 1 (as well as the recent Syfy TV series) seemed to have been drained from this sequel, somehow. Too many story threads (like the digging into the history of the Fillory books and Plover and the Chatwins) felt recycled from its predecessor. There's also the presence of a particularly pernicious plot device that also formed a huge part of the ending of Book 1, and The Magicians Season 1, and if the series repeats said plot device for Season 2, I'm sure fans and critics alive will be incensed, and that's putting it mildly.

But there's only one book left, and I'm really hopeful that The Magician King is the point where the series hits bottom.

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Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Lady Smith

For the umpteenth time in my life, I've found myself crushed out on a beautiful and unattainable woman. (Well, maybe not so unattainable, but given my perfect undateability...) And in this case, I've felt the need to express myself about it through poetry. Though this may be an angsty practice, I still hope you Pinecones, at least, approve of my latest piece of work, the title of which is not meant to reflect any real names. I hereby present my latest lovesick geekboy poem: "Lady Smith."

Like Stiles, I've fallen for a lovely strawberry blonde.
Like Lydia, she's a unique character indeed.

She studies the same subjects I do in school,
But not for the same reasons.
She wants to put her English-major skills to work
As a teacher, like many of our fellows.
For now, she works in a metalwork place,
A modern-day blacksmith's shop.
Hence my secret nickname for her...

"Lady Smith."

While she doesn't get to do much metalwork
(Because her boss is fettered by outdated sexism
And treats her like the SSR treats Agent Carter),
She still knows her way around a welding torch.
She wants to teach?
Maybe someday she'll teach me to weld.
I doubt I'd get much use out of that particular skill.
But still, wouldn't it be cool?
Fire and metal, all together.

There's what sets us apart.
She has plans for her future.
Legitimate, practical, focused.
As for me?
When I grow up, I'll be a starving writer
But only if I get to make my own way
And those who say they know better
Stop interfering with every aspect of my life.
After all, it's not work if you enjoy it.
Practicality just isn't my forte, I'm afraid.

Then there's the distance between us
On this earthly plane.
Twice a week, we share two classes in a row.
Four hours in all.
Outside that time, though, we live an hour apart
When the traffic's good.
It's not like either of us will ever have a chance
To drive to the other one's house,
Pick the other one up,
And go to the movies or dinner
Or a concert, likely my first.

Which, frankly, sucks.

After all, part of the reason why I've been single all my life
Is because I've never liked a girl my parents would approve of.
My parents would like Lady Smith.
It's rare that I've felt this way for someone about whom
I wouldn't be afraid to bring home.
A real Gwen to my Peter.
An Allison to my Scott.
A Fionna to my Alex.
An Evan to my Jay.

And she's got great taste in pop culture,
A major plus for me.
Already she's motivated me to try something new
With a lovely, intricate winged logo.
She knows not my fascination with wings and flight.
She knows not the titanic attack she's waged on my heart.

Best of all, we're both tired of where we live.
It's the weather. Her town's too hot.
Mine is what Goldilocks would call "just right,"
But I call "just wrong."
Wherever she goes,
She could bring her future teaching credentials.

She wants to move north.
Anywhere north.
So do I, because far in the northern wastelands
Lies a storied place where I can potentially meet my goals.
I could write the magical stories of archers and speedsters
And zombies and fallen angels
And survivors of the apocalypse.

Together, we could achieve so much.
Now, there's just one problem...
As much as I've learned about her already,
I don't know if she's free
To test the waters with me.
Or if she even wants to try
With one as inexperienced as I.

Dare I ask her out?

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Review: Etiquette & Espionage

Etiquette & Espionage Etiquette & Espionage by Gail Carriger
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Steampunk and killer ladies? I've been meaning to check this series out for a while, but only now was I able to find and pick up the first book at the library. Etiquette and Espionage didn't quite live up to my expectations, but it did find some good ways to subvert them. I didn't really think the school would be a big, cumbersome airship like it was in this book, but it sure keeps things interesting, knowing just how far the technology in this book has progressed. The sooties who help keep the whole thing running also help - they're among the most interesting characters in the whole book. Also an excellent addition - paranormal creatures, namely vampires and werewolves, putting the book a little in line with Cassie Clare's Infernal Devices.

I did, however, have issues with a lot of characters' names, which seemed so ridiculous and trying too hard to be highfalutin. I mean, calling the main character "Sophronia" when "Sophie" would have done just as just distracted me too much. And I feel like there wasn't much of an ending, either. Of course, that's what sequels are for.

Next time I go to the library, I'll be sure to seek out Book 2 and hope for a real four- or even five-star experience.

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Saturday, April 23, 2016


It's been a couple of years since I wrote this poem - which got me extra credit in my poetry class way back in spring 2014. That's a time I just wanna remember so much (especially 'cause it's when the world was first graced with the presence of the Ghost Stories album from Coldplay and The Amazing Spider-Man 2), even if I was in a bit of a dark place at the time. And because I'm feeling like I'm in a dark place tonight (even with the aid of The Peanuts Movie), I've decided to share my old poem with you guys to see if it helps me feel better. It probably will - usually, it does.

So here's my work, called "Cage."

Would you keep a cat in a cage?
Not all the time.
Not if you don't want him to get fat
And useless and lazy.
Kitty needs his playtime
So he can stay cute and cuddly.

Would you keep a wolf in a cage?
Maybe, if he were tame.
Maybe he can be trained
To chase squirrels from your apple tree.
But can he ever be truly happy
Living in comfortable captivity?

Would you keep a cobra in a cage?
Could be for research.
Could be to see if you could make
A less dangerous beast.
Just know that you run the risk
Of getting venom slung your way.

Would you keep a human in a cage?
Only if he deserved it.
Only if it would keep the world safe
From his different personality.
But what if his crime is nothing more
Than being a misfit?

There's a reason why the expression is
"Pacing like an animal in a cage."
You are controlling a soul
Yearning to be let free.
Maybe he needs a little leash.
Would you give the human some slack?

Review: Blue Lily, Lily Blue

Blue Lily, Lily Blue Blue Lily, Lily Blue by Maggie Stiefvater
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Well, for now I'm officially caught up on this series - but that'll change soon as The Raven King makes its way to library and bookstore shelves.

Like its immediate predecessor, the book is brought down by a mostly-wandering first half where nothing much happens. What does happen, however, is a good string of character moments - like Noah's spectral hissy fit in the counselor's office while Blue discusses her future and her college prospects. It's moments like that that make me feel so bad for Noah, and are a large part of why he's one of my favorite characters in this book.

Meanwhile, we've got a nasty new bad guy making himself known. Thankfully, this one's a little less in-your-face evil than Kavinsky, but for those chapters where we get into his head (such as it were - third-person POV may be preferred by many, but I prefer first, both when reading and when writing, for allowing the reader more insight into the character's thought processes and personality), he's pretty downright despicable.

Soon, I'll have The Raven King in my hands, and I'll have at last made the most of my second stab at reading this series.

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Thursday, April 21, 2016

Supergirl Season 1: All Love To The Angel Of Krypton

It's been no secret for the last six months that I'm hugely into the one and only superhero show on CBS - Supergirl.

It's been no secret that I'm hugely, hopelessly crushed out on Supergirl herself. Like all my favorite superhero actors of recent years (Andrew Garfield on The Amazing Spider-Man, Grant Gustin on The Flash, Robert Downey, Jr. in Iron Man, etc.), Melissa Benoist owns the role of Supergirl so much, she is Supergirl. And what better heroine to be, amirite or amirite? Like all the best of them, Supergirl is a shining beacon of hope, an ass-kicking guardian angel. But without a doubt, she's the first one whom I looked at and thought, "She is an angel." Excuse me for sounding like young Anakin in The Phantom Menace (a movie I still unabashedly enjoy even after growing up and out of Jar Jar Binks' target audience), but let's face it - while those other heroes I mentioned are guys I'd love to just hang out with, Supergirl's the one I started out wanting to hang out with, but fell in love with her once I really got to know her.

Over the course of these first twenty episodes, the entire cast of Supergirl has grown. Their personalities have evolved, and their characters have grown magnificently and organically. Cat Grant especially comes to mind - just look at how much her biting, snarky side has given way to a woman who deeply respects and supports Supergirl, and also accurately comes to suspect Kara's true identity before long. And yet, she's never lost her innate ability to leave a crappy first impression - hilarious with her legendary zingers ("Whole milk has not passed these lips since I last rode a bicycle with streamers!"), but still, crappy, because she would have you believe she can only connect with people when she's insulting them.

Still, though...her one-liners. XD

Cat's not the only dynamic character this show's got, though. In the early days, Supergirl struggled to grow out of her cousin's shadow. She could have easily just come across to the world as a copycat, or a weaker distaff counterpart to Superman. But she's spent the entire season fighting to make a name for herself, to show the world that she's her own hero. The people of National City often need some convincing on that front, and I'd be more than happy to offer it to them.

In many circles I frequent, Superman doesn't get much love because he's believed to be a God Moder. All they see in him is his power and strength, without any of the vulnerability that would make him relatable to us humans - something that, I think, Zack Snyder sought to correct in Man of Steel and Batman v Superman, which didn't go over too well with fans who expect Superman to be the eternally bright and shiny epitome of truth, justice, and the American way.

But there's no light without the darkness, and the creative forces behind Supergirl are dangerously gifted at knowing when to tip the scales the other way and show Kara's more negative sides. Her encounter with the Red Tornado comes to mind, as well as another red-something: Red Krypton. It only makes me feel for her even more, and with each episode, the emotional intensity ticks up just a little more. Sometimes, it dials back following a particularly trying show (like "For The Girl Who Has Everything"), only to ratchet back up into the stratosphere eventually (like "Myriad" and, most notably, the season finale "Better Angels.")

At her core, Supergirl is as much a symbol of hope as Superman, and certainly even more so for we the viewers. Tonight's episode of Lucifer (a show I like to watch back-to-back on Monday nights with Supergirl precisely because their title characters are such polar opposites - she the light, he the dark; she the sweet, he the sour, etc.) drew parallels between Lucifer's vulnerability when around Chloe and his implied fear of intimacy. If having people see your weaknesses is a major part of intimacy, then it's no wonder I love Supergirl so much. It's no wonder I wish I could be a character on this show so I could actively help her save the day when it so often needs saving (I don't really bring too many marketable skills to the table, but I suppose if Cat needs a copyeditor for all the publicity she gives Supergirl...), and so I could be her shoulder to cry on when she needs it (not to mention, if Alex isn't around to join her in socially-acceptable binge-watching, I volunteer as tribute.)

Kara strikes me as an Orphan Black fan. Can I join her in Clone Club? Please?

The single best episode of the season for me, however, was "Worlds Finest," that legendary #SupergirlXTheFlash crossover event. Can you say, "squad goals?"

And also, "ship goals?"

Barry and Kara clicked so well, it wasn't even funny - and it validated my creative decision to have all the superheroes in my many fanfics, most notably the Spidey & Speedy crossover trilogy between Spider-Man and a mix of heroes from various DC film and TV universes, become fast friends and work together with incredible precision. I can easily see Kara, Barry, and Peter as the best group of their kind since Harry Potter's Golden Trio. Barry would be the brains, Peter would be the heart, and Kara would be the strength, the glue (like Maze Runner's Newt) binding the team together.

Hey, don't hate. I'm just an overactive fanfic writer.

Bottom line - Supergirl earns her place as one of my favorite TV series of the year. And if CBS does not renew this show for a second season, then I'd be more than happy to send Oliver Queen after them.

"CBS, you have failed this fandom!"

Till next time, Pinecones...

Remember - Denis Leary is always watching. Always.

Review: The Steel Kiss

The Steel Kiss The Steel Kiss by Jeffery Deaver
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Nice to see Lincoln Rhyme and Amelia Sachs back in action...and speaking of action, this book has quite the eye-popping opening, which oddly echoes a recent episode of Damien in its deadly escalator-induced damage to a poor guy's meat suit. This is just the beginning to a diabolical plot that would have felt quite at home on CSI: Cyber - involving death by technology, which in this case has crept into so many different objects just waiting to be exploited so horribly. And yet, for the glimpses we get into the killer's head, it appears that, while very socially-awkward and reclusive, he's a bit too much of an artistic type to really be into hacking. Don't worry - it wouldn't be Deaver without a twist or ten. And of course, there's the diary entries, which you just know are going to end in disaster...I couldn't help but feel a bit of the old "Sympathy for the Devil."

It's not quite as good as last year's Solitude Creek, but I still think The Steel Kiss makes a good spiritual successor to that particular Kathryn Dance novel. I wouldn't be surprised, though, if Deaver's next Rhyme/Sachs outing, being the thirteenth, will turn out to be especially diabolical...

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Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Review: The Dream Thieves

The Dream Thieves The Dream Thieves by Maggie Stiefvater
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The prologue to this book gives it a magnificent start as it describes Ronan's power, which gives the book its title. It reminds me very strongly of Inception, one of my favorite movies ever...

...but unlike Dom Cobb, Ronan can take more than just ideas from dreams. He can take solid objects, and solid objects he does take. Plenty of them.

The rest of the book's first half feels a little more aimless after that, and at first I was scared I would give this book a lower rating than The Raven Boys because it didn't seem to build much on that dramatic prologue. Instead, it focused a lot - and do I mean A LOT - on Ronan's racing rivalry with this Kavinsky dude. That's when the book got a little too Fast and the Furious - I've got to be the only guy on the planet who's never seen any of those movies, other than maybe the first fifteen minutes of the first one when my cousin tried to get me to watch it.

The second half, however, blends Ronan's dream thieving and racing together surprisingly well, and helps save the book. That, plus the fact that Kavinsky is such a major-league bag of dicks. He was basically Jackson from Teen Wolf but worse.

As for the rest of the Raven Boys - I was pretty bored with Gansey at this point. I get the feeling all his character development was front-loaded into the first book. Adam and Noah remain my favorites, though, for being the most relatable of the group (especially Adam for being the only non-uppercrust, and Noah for being a literal ghost), and for having the best chemistry with Blue.

I'm gonna take a break to read the latest Jeffery Deaver before moving on to Book 3. Here's hoping Blue Lily, Lily Blue keeps things interesting...

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Saturday, April 16, 2016

Review: The Elf Queen of Shannara

The Elf Queen of Shannara The Elf Queen of Shannara by Terry Brooks
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I was afraid the previous Shannara book would be the start of a serious decline in quality, because I remember more of its cons than its pros. Thankfully, however, Elf Queen reverses course and improves on its predecessor by shying away from some of those cons - the most notable of which, I think, was the simply bizarre names of certain characters (I still have a laugh every time I remember that one of the most important characters was "Quickening.") But this book gives me less opportunities for unintentional laughs and more answers to the driving mysteries of this particular subset of Shannara books. For instance, the continued importance of a certain member of the Ohmsford bloodline, and also the surprising secret origins of the Shadowen (which actually make sense to me only because I realize Jak 3 may have been inspired by it.)

Soon, I'll be completing this part of the Shannara series, and hopefully from there I can find my way to the next one in short order...provided I still enjoy them, that is.

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Thursday, April 14, 2016

Review: The Insider Threat

The Insider Threat The Insider Threat by Brad Taylor
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

One of Taylor's most memorable books in quite a while, largely because of its combination of a currently topical threat (ISIS) with a few international settings that come straight out of James Rollins (no spoilers, but the bad guys in this book attempt to pull off a scarily believable, if simultaneously so out-there you can't think they'd possibly do the job, terrorist attack.) Also helping to make this book memorable - Shoshana, who reminds me of Ziva David in so many ways.

I'm actually a bit ashamed that I didn't even realize this book was out until I saw its sequel on the library shelf. Thankfully I was able to pick up both and I'll be reading the next one soon enough as well.

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Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Guess Who's Coming To Instagram?

Yeah, I've been wanting to do this for a while, and I've finally figured out how to make sure my parents don't find out I've signed up for it... now you may find me on Instagram, @redrainricky!

It's under construction yet, but hopefully I'll soon find plenty of cool peeps to follow... :D

Sunday, April 10, 2016

Harry Potter Book Tag

So, I found this book tag thing posted by Joey @ Thoughts and Afterthoughts, and while he didn't specifically tag me, he did post at the end of his long, long list of tags, "...and you! (Tagging everyone is difficult.)"

I assume that means I'm free to take part? I hope so...because that's exactly what I'm about to do. It's a Harry Potter book tag, which basically means I need to do this, stat.

Ready? Here we go:

FLAGRATE - A book with an interesting premise but you'd like to rewrite it

That's easy - Stephenie Meyer's Twilight. Don't get me wrong, it had potential, but there's a reason why it's either love it or hate it. At some point, B.R. Myers put up a list of her top 5 movies Jennifer Lawrence should have been in, and Twilight was first on the list: "JL's Bella would have been burping and snorting her whole way through the script, endearing us to Bella in a way the book never could." This is the Twilight I would love to write myself, given half a chance - a darkly funny paranormal romance with tons of blood and guts. (What can I say? I need to get gloriously gory sometimes.)

ALOHOMORA - The first book in a series that got you hooked

Oh, there's so many tons of books I could place here...but I gotta go with one that's got a forthcoming movie adaptation from one of my favorite directors ever. I sometimes like to visit a Goodreads thread about "worst book you have ever read that's popular," and I'm frankly befuddled to see Ransom Riggs' Miss Peregrine's Home For Peculiar Children frequently appearing in the comments. That book is pretty much tailor-made for me, with its history-bending and time travel and fantastic paranormal powers...and of course the blood and guts. I'm certain Tim Burton has another masterpiece on his hands with the movie that comes out this September. #StayPeculiar, my friends.

ACCIO - A book you wish you could have right now

Zac Brewer's The Blood Between Us. More blood for the list, although in this case, it's more about family ties and how they can get seriously twisted - or so I understand from the blurbs. (Although I wouldn't be surprised if Uncle Zac wrote in scenes of actual blood, knowing him.) This Minion is first in line at the library for it, and eagerly awaiting its book birthday next month!

AVADA KEDAVRA - A killer book

Veronica Roth's Divergent. Like Miss Peregrine above, this book (and especially its sequels) are constantly showing up in the "worst popular book" thread, and I can sort of see why, given how polarizing the Divergent series is. But I was so enamored with the book when I blindly requested it as an 18th birthday present way back in 2011 that I simply can't see myself having never read and/or enjoyed the whole trilogy (plus the Four story collection). And hey, I successfully got my reluctant-reader sister to read and like the whole series too (it should be noted that she loathed Mockingjay for its ending.)

CONFUNDO - A book you found really confusing

Andrew Smith's The Marbury Lens. Joey, the same guy I got this tag from, also listed another book from the same author, The Alex Crow. That one confused me too, but not to the same level as The Marbury Lens, which was the stuff of David Lynch's nightmares. It's surreal to the nth degree, and as for its sequel Passenger, I remember little to none of it, other than a subplot thread about the MC dealing with his confusion about his sexuality (a theme that recurs throughout Smith's work, and one I can definitely relate to.) As with other Andrew Smith books, however, I recommend the Marbury Lens books for their sheer uniqueness alone.

EXPECTO PATRONUM - Your spirit book

Victoria Schwab's The Archived. I first discovered this book and its sequel, The Unbound, in early 2014 when I first started writing Red Rain, and I fell in love with its unique vision of the afterlife, one even more unique than my own. In fact, the library-like setting of these books contributed to me putting a library into the Second Universe afterlife of the Red Rain series. And when I later visited the Colma memorial park where my grandfather's ashes are kept, seeing a large section of the place designed to look like a library (with book-shaped urns) all but validated my Schwab-influenced vision.

SECTUMSEMPRA - A dark and twisted book

My other spirit book - Michelle Hodkin's The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer. Despite being largely set in South Florida, this trilogy, like Dexter, existed in a state of more-or-less permanent shadow for me because of its creepy subject matter. All the kudos to Hodkin, though, for keeping the dark supernatural undercurrents bubbling under the surface throughout most of the first book, only to eventually plunge the reader headfirst into an urban-Gothic pool of Dark Eco, if you'll excuse my Jak and Daxter reference. Also, the three most important characters in this series (Mara, Noah, and Jamie) would totally make best friends with my very own Alex, Gabe, and Fionna, of that I'm sure.

APARECIUM - A book that surprised you in a great way

My first temptation was to put my recent re-read of The Raven Boys here, but I also remember another super-popular book I was quite reluctant to read at first - you can blame the shirtless dude on the cover, because how would people have reacted to seeing me carrying that around? (I was quite a sad and confused seventeen-year-old.) My high school librarian did eventually convince me, though, to read Cassandra Clare's City of Bones. I've never looked back, except to say that while I still love every one of her Shadowhunters novels, she only gets better and better as she goes on. Each book is longer, more complicated, and more laden with excellent relationships, romantic, platonic, parabatai, or otherwise. There has to be a peak somewhere, right? I can't imagine when Cassie Clare's will come, though.

And with that, I've got my Harry Potter book tags for you to enjoy. I don't know all that many people in the blogosphere (and most of these aren't on Blogger), but I'll tag them anyway just 'cause. And if you read this and don't see your name on this list, go ahead and do what I did - make your tag anyway!

B.R. Myers
Alex @ The Daily Life of a Teenage Aspie
Brett Michael Orr
Briana Mae Morgan
Tia @ Read It Write Now!
Megan and Cat @ Books of Fascination

Saturday, April 9, 2016

Review: The Stars Never Rise

The Stars Never Rise The Stars Never Rise by Rachel Vincent
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Ever wonder what'll happen if religious fascists take over this country? It might look a little something like this book's horrifying post-apocalypse. Here, the Church is empowered to hurt and/or kill anyone who breaks their inhumanly strict rules, like the second coming of the Spanish Inquisition. But unlike the real-life Salem, where I'm inclined to believe the theory that all the witch hunts were the result of the Puritans repressing the people's sexuality and leading to serious psychological trauma, Rachel Vincent's story world plays out a little more like the WGN series version of Salem, where the demonic threat is all too real.

Naturally, though, the Church in this book isn't interested in helping teach people to recognize the truth about demonic degenerates, or how to fight them - which would be quite a useful skill, no? Instead, the Church is corrupt and false and determined to maintain their controlling stranglehold on society, even at the cost of the people's lives. They have too much fun staging public exorcisms (read: public witch-burnings) for anything they can pass off as a sign of "possession." Many of these, of course, are "offenses" of a sexual nature. This includes the "crime" of teen pregnancy, which is the impetus of our heroine's adventure because it happens to her sister - and from there, all hell proceeds to break loose. They say that abstinence-only programs backfire because they fail to teach teens about safe sex - maybe that was Vincent's inspiration there?

I mostly loved this book because of its unflinching depiction of a religious institution that exists only to hold people back - something that, as a recovering Catholic, I have little trouble identifying with. But I believe that rather than function as a general condemnation of religion, The Stars Never Rise instead attacks the idea of people in power using religion to hurt their fellow man and woman. I'm pretty big on this idea because I believe very strongly in freedom of love.

If I'm "possessed" for enjoying this book and for having had enough religion to last a lifetime, then may the Church exorcise me and have a five-year-old girl throw the first match on my gasoline-soaked body.

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Friday, April 8, 2016

Review: The Bunker Diary

The Bunker Diary The Bunker Diary by Kevin Brooks
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I've read a couple of Kevin Brooks books in my time. I liked iBoy but wasn't quite so enamored with Black Rabbit Summer. The Bunker Diary, however, is the best Brooks creation I've read so far - not to mention the darkest and most devastating. It's no wonder Adam Silvera recommended this book - like his More Happy Than Not, it's a gripping sci-fi-inflected read that, unless you have no soul, will tear your heart out.

Seriously. Once you finish this book, you'll ask yourself the same question Fox's Lucifer asked God in his epic Rage Against The Heavens in Episode 9:

As someone who specializes in writing bittersweet endings, emphasis on "bitter" (it happens when the Amazing Spider-Man movies are your favorites), I was a bit prepared for the trauma of this book...but still, it hurts. It hurts like a mother.

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Review: Shadow Wave

Shadow Wave Shadow Wave by Robert Muchamore
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

And so, the adventures of CHERUB agent James Adams come to a close in this book. It's not the end of this universe, not by a long shot (and I'll have to look into whether or not any libraries around here have the Henderson's Boys series, or the remaining CHERUB books with Lauren as the main character.)

But at least this book was a nice end to the original series, especially with its increased insight into Kyle's past as he gets a lot of focus in this book. (And because I'd not quite forgotten enough how horrid Mr. Large was, there was more of him in the flashback scenes - but he wasn't all bad this time around, not like how I remembered him from before.)

I can't believe it took me this long to read all twelve books (although my library's conspicuous lack of most of the books forced me to special-order them.) But hey, it's been a wild ride, seeing James Adams' long, long journey of adolescent espionage. Can't wait to see what Lauren does next...

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Thursday, April 7, 2016

Review: The Gangster

The Gangster The Gangster by Clive Cussler
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

The Isaac Bell adventures are a bit hit and miss for me sometimes (although they're favorites of my dad, who's always into the historical stuff - and hell, this is the Cussler series he's most caught up on at this point.) This one had a bit of both hit and miss involved, so it gets a three star rating from me. It would probably have been two stars if not for the climax involving President Theodore Roosevelt - that's always a way to boost the story for me, even if I always imagine Teddy looking and sounding like Robin Williams.

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Tuesday, April 5, 2016

Review: Endsinger

Endsinger Endsinger by Jay Kristoff
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Mister Kristoff's trilogy hit a bit of a sophomore slump for me, despite dialing up the humor a bit. Taking a more action-intensive approach to Endsinger helped this series get back on form for its conclusion. Here we get so many great battle scenes, the increasing danger of the land being irretrievably ruined forever by the blood lotus, and once again, a frantic pace that doesn't really allow for too many gaps in the action.

That ending, though...whoa. Just...whoa.

However the people of Shima would say ave atque vale, I now give that to this series.

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Saturday, April 2, 2016

Review: Dorothy Must Die: Stories Vol. 2

Dorothy Must Die: Stories Vol. 2 Dorothy Must Die: Stories Vol. 2 by Danielle Paige
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I was afraid that this book would be absolutely required reading before Yellow Brick War, which would have been a disaster for me because my library has not yet ordered this (or even the first Stories collection), and the only library that has this book in the Link+ system that normally lets me special order from beyond Alameda County is in San Diego. No way will I order a book from that far away...but thankfully, I was able to read this one in the book aisle at Target today, and therefore gobble up the three Fractured-Fairytale stories of Dorothy's three classic companions in only an hour or so. All while recommending pretty much every YA book on the shelf to another customer.

And now...I'm finally sufficiently pumped for YBW. May that book come to me at the library soon! :D

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Review: The Raven Boys

The Raven Boys The Raven Boys by Maggie Stiefvater
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Okay, so I tried this book once, about two years ago, and I couldn't get beyond page 20 or so at all. Maybe I was caught up in other things that demanded my attention more, maybe I wasn't connecting with the material. It got to the point where, while writing the first draft of Red Rain, I praised Shiver enough to turn it into an excellent in-universe movie, while having my protagonist Alex Snow utterly unable to read The Raven Boys.

For whatever reason, I couldn't read it before, but now, after a couple of years, I'm doing what I did for Heroes of Olympus - taking another stab at it. And just like with Heroes (as well as Beautiful Creatures and Crown of Midnight), a second read has helped me connect much better with The Raven Boys. Looking back, I now realize that my major issue (aside from the third-person POV - I prefer first-person for getting into characters' heads both when reading and writing) was the Boys themselves - mostly because of the limited look I got into their characters, I just saw them as spoiled rich dudes with little to no redeeming value at the time. Naturally, reading further has allowed me to finally make distinctions between them, and understand them better. They're pretty nicely flawed - for example, Gansey having a bit of a devil-may-care attitude regarding his potentially lethal bee and wasp allergies (I'm not allergic myself, but because of my crippling fear of bees and wasps, I can sort of relate on some level), and Adam being the one non-rich dude, which gives him something of a chip on his shoulder. As for storytelling, it's still, as I remember from my abbreviated first time, slow and sluggish at first. That, of course, is before the twists happen - and holy crap, Stiefvater throws them at the reader like this:

To my surprise, I've found a book that might pair very well with Red Rain because of its private-school setting and paranormal elements and considerable boyish attitude. I think I might have written Red Rain as a sort of anti-Raven Boys, especially by giving the book a tone sliding between more lighthearted and more blackly comic, but hey, sometimes opposites attract. For sure, I'll be using The Raven Boys as a comp title in future query letters, and I've now got The Dream Thieves on order at the library.

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The Nerdy Girl Express: Stitchers and Feelings

Recently, I wrote a short but personal article about the Freeform fan-favorite series, Stitchers, which I decided to share with the fine ladies at The Nerdy Girl Express. They happily agreed to put up my article, "Stitchers and Feelings," on their site today, in honor of World Autism Awareness Day.

You may now read my NGE guest post in all its fine glory here.

Happy weekend, Pinecones! :D